This week’s roundup includes reviews of several new films, including “Emily the Criminal,” which showcases a superb Aubrey Plaza, and “Le Temps perdu,” an Argentine documentary about the continuing pull of the masterly writing of French novelist Marcel Proust.
In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week
Emily the Criminal (Roadside Attractions/Vertical Entertainment)
As Emily, a young woman unable to keep a legitimate job in a society that punishes those with a rap sheet (however minor), Aubrey Plaza gives her best performance, full of her usual irony, ebullience and deadpan humor but also a strong sense of tragic desperation. But too often writer-director John Patton Ford leans into implausible melodrama, forcing his heroine to extremes—as when she’s robbed after risibly taking no precautions then immediately becomes Wonder Woman to take down the thieves—but Plaza’s focused, subtle portrayal smooths over the bumpy dramatics.
Summering (Bleecker Street)
Reminiscent of Stand by Me, Rob Reiner and Stephen King’s 1986 memory piece, James Ponsoldt’s mawkish drama follows four young teens in the waning days of summer who chance upon a dead body in the woods and are consumed with trying to identify him. The acting is variable—the girls’ mothers are played by Lake Bell, Megan Mullally, Sarah Cooper and Ashley Madekwe, none of whom can do much with their cardboard roles, and the four girls are interchangeably dull—the pacing is leaden, the attempts at wit and insight are threadbare and the entire 80-minute film has the feel of an interminably stretched-out short.
Le Temps perdu (Film Forum)
A group of Buenos Aires seniors has gotten together regularly for several years to read out loud a Spanish translation of Marcel Proust’s classic novel In Search of Lost Time, and Marĺa Álvarez’s absorbing documentary presents this real-life situation as something Proustian in itself. These men and women, as they traverse the gargantuan canvas of the lengendary six-volume masterwork, engagingly and honestly discuss their responses to the book’s characters and themes, in the process discovering how this great work of art has entered their very beings.
Blu-ray Release of the Week
Crossing The Blair Witch Project with Ten Little Indians gives an idea of this almost unbearably static drama (made in 2010) that follows several researchers following in the footsteps of an entire New Hampshire town’s denizens, who mysteriously disappeared several decades earlier. Watching people act strangely as they are targeted by an unseen malevolent force they cannot escape from becomes as urgent and scary as watching paint dry in the hands of directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton. The film looks fine on Blu; extras include directors’ commentary, featurettes and cast/crew interviews.
DVD Releases of the Week
NCIS—Complete 19th Season (CBS/Paramount)
One of network television’s most successful franchises, the NCIS umbrella now encompasses several series—three spinoffs, set in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Hawaii, respectively; and the original, set in Washington D.C.—all smartly using their locales for their rigorous investigations. In the latest season of the original (never fear, the 20th season will premiere in the fall), Mark Harmon’s chief retires and is replaced by Gary Cole, but the team still has to hit the ground running as they take on several highly sensitive, dangerous cases to solve. The tension is ratcheted up by bombings, deadly toxins, kidnappings, etc., throughout these 21 episodes. Extras include featurettes, interviews and an NCIS: Hawaii crossover episode.
Pam & Tommy (Lionsgate)
She’s helped greatly by makeup and prosthetics, but British actress Lily James’ remarkable transformation into Pam Anderson provides a sympathetic portrait of an actress-model who was pretty much a punch line in her ’90s heyday, from Playboy spreads to Baywatch appearances and, of course, the infamous sex tape with then-husband Tommy Lee, the focus of this compulsively watchable eight-episode series. Sebastian Stan as Lee gives fine support; although he can’t completely avoid caricature, he’s far better than Seth Rogen, who gives a one-note portrayal of Rand Gauthier, who stole the couple’s sex tape hoping to cash in big. Buoying up the Rand subplot is Taylor Schilling, who winningly plays a porn actress who falls for the ultimate loser.